Consumers are flooded with ads, offers, discounts and brand impressions. We are bombarded by tweets, Facebook ads, online ads and commercials during most radio and TV programming. Advertisers have learned that to get their messages out there—and cut through all the noise—they have to make an impression, a big one.
A quick look at what's trending in advertising shows that bigger isn't always better, but different is better. And to stand out, advertisers have to work harder to garner attention. Want to know what's hot in marketing this year?
Rather than trying to retrain viewers with increasingly short attention spans, some ads capitalize on the tendency—particularly among younger consumers—to ingest advertisements 140 characters at a time. Capitalizing on the to-the-minute capabilities of social media, companies like Oreo have leveraged events like the blackout during the 2013 Superbowl to create viral campaigns. Its “Power Out? No Problem. You can still dunk in the dark” tweet went all over the world in minutes. That single tweet taught advertisers the value of being poised to capitalize on the opportunities that crop up when you least expect them.
Humor has always been a big weapon in advertisers’ arsenals. The concept is that creating a positive, fun association with a product will make you more likely to buy it, right? Lately, there’s been an increase in ads that create profound emotional connections by making viewers reach for Kleenex. The idea is that if an ad can reach through all the messages that assault you, and if the ad can make you feel something—some genuine connection—then you walk away with a more favorable association with a brand. My favorite sadvertising example is Extra Gum’s Give Extra, Get Extra.
Whether it’s a splashy campaign built to develop buzz for a movie premiere like Devil’s Due, or whether it’s a surprise demonstration of a company’s appreciation for its customers, the goal of prankvertising is two-fold. Brands want to make an impression not just on the people who’re unwittingly part of the prank itself, but on viewers who watch and (hopefully) share the videos of the prank. Think about it: There is no traditional advertisement that could possibly have garnered the number of viewers that these "baby prank" videos did.
And for another sort of prankvertising, see WestJet’s elaborate lesson about the joys of giving and receiving at Christmastime.
Some spectacular ads manage to fuse elements of more than one advertising trend. In LG’s ad campaign for their Ultra HDTV, you see the combination of jaw-dropping technical effects in the animation of a comet, and you see that animated comet terrify people who believe they are being interviewed for a job, but are in fact victims of an elaborate prank. (The advertisement isn’t in English, but trust me, you’ll get the idea.)
Incorporating well-known songs into ads is nothing new, but what is new are ads that really foreground the song, highlighting the performer and incorporating not just the message in the music, but also the implied endorsement of the performer as a part of a brand’s image. Look for trackvertising to increase dramatically. Check out the 2014 Kia Soul campaign that features Lady Gaga’s “Applause.” You see a seamless fusion of music video and advertisement.
It’s certainly no surprise that companies use celebrities to endorse their products and attract new consumers. In another fusion technique, we’re seeing celebrities engaged in more prankvertising. Playing on the appeal of shows like Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d, celebrity prankvertising is often elaborate and is infinitely shareable and likeable on social media. Check out Pepsi Max’s second Jeff Gordon prank, specifically targeted at a vocal nonbeliever about the authenticity of the first Pepsi-Gordon prank. Another great celebvertising prank puts Josh Duhamel to work ringing up Diet Pepsi for unsuspecting supermarket customers.
A final twist on the celebvertising trend puts a fictional character to work peddling bottled water in Evian’s Spiderman twist on its dancing baby campaign.
A Word of Caution
Now before you call your marketing agency or devise an elaborate stunt to rack up your YouTube views, there are some potential downfalls for advertising that uses some of these popular techniques. First, prankvertising walks a very fine line between enchanting consumers and alienating them. Watch Nivea’s deodorant prank, which some think crossed that line.
Overall, whether you opt for traditional advertising or try out one of the trendy variations, the important thing to remember is that you want to convey a clear and consistent message about your brand.
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